MILWAUKEE — For so much of this streak, it has been about winning in a variety of ways for the Miami Heat.
They have done it some nights on talent, some on grit and, at times, simply outlasted the opponent.
Add doing it with anger to the list.
The Heat appeared to see a little red, flaring the nostrils after one of their own went down with an early injury. And even though Dwyane Wade returned from a first-quarter spill, the Heat kept their mean streak going in a 107-94 victory Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks at Bradley Center.
And as for streaks, that continued, too. Make it 21 straight victories, meaning they have gone six weeks without defeat.
It started so routine for Miami, with Wade scoring an easy layup and Mario Chalmers connecting with LeBron James for an alley-oop for the game’s first four points. It became anything but when the Heat were given their second injury scare in the past three weeks.
With the score 8-4, a driving Wade was met in the lane by Bucks forward Larry Sanders. The shot was blocked, but that was the least of the Heat’s concerns. Wade fell to the floor in pain after taking a hard fall. He was tended to by team trainers, giving Wade tests usually reserved for those who have sustained concussions.
The moment was reminiscent of James having a similar misstep when he landed awkwardly against the New York Knicks earlier this month. Wade left the court with seven minutes, 17 seconds left in the first quarter, only to return midway through the second from what was a termed a neck sprain.
Like James, the injury appeared worse than it actually was.
As was the fear of the streak coming to an end when the Bucks led by one after the first quarter.
Even in their brief stint without Wade, the Heat proved they had more than enough to defeat a Milwaukee team that had beaten them three months ago in what coach Erik Spoelstra called “one of our worst losses of the year.” The Bucks used a 33-5 second-half run to capture a 19-point victory in December.
That was against the old Heat. Not the team that has many wondering when it will lose again. The Heat need a victory Sunday against the Toronto Raptors to tie the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for the second-longest winning streak in league history. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers top the list at 33 straight wins.
“We were a totally different team at that point,” James said of the previous loss to the Bucks. “We’re much better now. We should be. We should be better than we were in December.”
James and Bosh combined to shoot 14 of 22 in the first half on the way to both scoring 28 points. Wade finished with 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
The Heat broke things open in the third quarter with a collection of highlight plays. James threw a court-length pass to Chalmers, who caught it in midair and dropped a bounce pass to Wade for the dunk.
Bosh then drew teammates from their seats on the bench when he completed a four-point play after being fouled by Ersan Ilyasova. That gave the Heat a 67-53 lead with 7:07 left in the quarter. The Bucks’ strongest threat came when a JJ Redick 3-pointer and Ilyasova free throw made it a six-point game with 8:53 left.
The Heat responded with a Shane Battier 3-pointer that sparked a 10-2 run.
The victory extended another streak that perhaps has even more importance. It was the Heat’s ninth straight win on the road, making their early season struggles a thing of the past. At one point, they were just 11-11 away from AmericanAirlines Arena and now are the only Eastern Conference team with 20 road wins. Only the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs have more road wins, with 23.
“We had to own it,” Spoelstra said. “We were horrible. If we didn’t own it, then that would have been a shame. We wouldn’t have gotten better. You have to give credit to teams that were pounding us.”